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Enlisting Women in Africa’s Health Fight

Ongoing efforts to control and eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases in Africa have made considerable progress in the years since the world began paying attention to these illnesses. But the time has come to develop more innovative policy tools that address NTDs' social, economic, and etiological dynamics.

BRAZZAVILLE – Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) disproportionately affect women and girls. Female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) alone causes severe pain, bleeding, and lesions in more than 16 million women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Beyond causing widespread physical suffering, NTDs have a severe long-term socioeconomic impact on millions of women and girls. Women who have been scarred or disfigured from diseases such as FGS and lymphatic filariasis are often stigmatized to the point that they are unable to marry or are abandoned by their spouses. And even though disfigurement and social stigma are not lethal conditions, they can cause or exacerbate psychological disorders and limit the opportunities women and girls have.

Since 2000, enough pharmaceuticals for five billion preventive treatments against NTDs have been donated. And many people now recognize that controlling, and eventually eliminating, NTDs will be essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which apply to such diverse areas as nutrition, education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, and economic growth. Because the SDGs are based on the principle of “leaving no one behind,” they cannot be considered a success until they have been met everywhere, and for all people – including women and girls.